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If that large riverside wicket is St. Louis’ most famous icon, what is the least known? Or visited? Or misunderstood?
David Baugher searched for the weird and the weird to find in Secret St. Louis (Reedy Press, 202 pages, $ 19.95; paperback).
He’s the guy who doesn’t just ignore an army of boots in a parking lot or private picnic area. No, he investigates this place and learns that it exceeds a lot of toxic waste. Bring the devilish eggs, however: the Weldon Spring Disposal Cell on Highway 94 South keeps radiation levels lower than the average backyard.
“You drive past these things and you never really think about them. But they’re out there, ”says Baugher.
People who have lived in St. Louis for decades and believe they know the background of SLU Billiken and the West County Center Pigeon who can head to the first Lion’s Choice after a dog museum can use the book to review the information, and probably learn something from “Secret St. Louis”.
“I speak to people in Brentwood who have never been to Florissant,” says Baugher.
He examines the lesser known, such as the background of Champ, Population 13. The 1959 incorporation was part of a grand scheme for a domed stadium near what is now Earth City.
By the age of 40, the Woodson Terrace writer has lived across the area, but his familiarity with North County means he has a deep knowledge of this overlooked region. His goals included things as diverse as the Melvin Price Locks and Dam Barge Simulator in Alton and an old 18-foot ice sculpture by Velvet Freeze at Mesnier Primary School on Weber Road.
Not included in Baugher’s book, however, are famous landmarks such as the City Museum or the St. Louis Zoo. There’s no Gateway Arch (except on the cover of the book), but there is the Union Station Whispering Arch.
“I’ve picked up things that I could say something new about.” One of the few places in the book that he didn’t visit himself was the Forty Acre Nudist Club in Franklin County.
Baugher’s book is like a travel guide for locals who think they know the area, he says. And he wishes it would inspire them to overcome the fear of moving to a new place.
“We have to try to be more regional,” he says.
Do you want to start Here are 10 places that could make a good scavenger hunt or day trip for those in the mood for adventure.